What happens at the end of The Batman? Set in the first few years of Bruce Wayne’s (Pattinson) war on crime, the film sees the world’s greatest detective tackle his toughest case, yet when a new serial killer starts targeting Gotham’s elite, starting with the mayor.
Calling himself The Riddler (Paul Dano), this deranged villain seeks to expose the dark truth at the heart of Gotham City. As Batman investigates the mayor’s murder, though, he uncovers another mystery, a missing girl called Annika who has ties to Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz). How are the two crimes related, and what’s the secret at the heart of Gotham?
Well, if there’s something in the way of you understanding the ending of this broody dark thriller, you’re not alone. The Batman had more twists than a pair of headphones left in a washing machine. Don’t worry, though. We’re here to help you cut through this gordian knot of a narrative. It goes without saying there are spoilers ahead but here’s The Batman ending explained…
The Batman ending explained
As The Riddler’s campaign against the great and not so good of Gotham heats up, the serial killer turns his attention to the city’s reclusive prince, Bruce Wayne himself. Unfortunately, the so-called world’s greatest detective only realised he was the target while interrogating the Penguin (Colin Farrell) with Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright).
Consequently, he’s too late to stop his faithful servant/father figure, Alfred (Andy Serkis), from opening a mysterious letter addressed to Bruce Wayne. As Alfred peels back the envelope, an explosion rocks Wayne Tower and Alfred is hospitalised, leaving Bruce devastated. The Riddler’s attack doesn’t end there, though.
The mystifying menace starts a coordinated attack on the Wayne family’s reputation, announcing to the world that Gotham’s noble family are not as squeaky clean as everyone thinks they are. The villain accuses Thomas Wayne of using his mob connections to have a reporter, Edward Elliot – who was planning on using Martha Wayne’s history of mental illness to derail Thomas’s political career – killed.
Devastated that his father wasn’t the paragon of virtue he believed him to be, and questioning his whole mission, Bruce approaches the only person with answers Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) – the mob boss who Thomas supposedly used to kill the nosey journalist. Falcone confirms to Bruce that Thomas did approach him to silence Edward but explains that the journalist was in the pocket of the city’s former ruling mob boss Maroni.
Supposedly Maroni feared what Thomas would do as mayor and wanted him out of the way. Following Falcone’s hit on Elliot – and even more concerned about the prospect of a Falconi controlled Mayor Wayne – he decided to have Marth and Thomas killed to get the meddlesome family out of the way.
Feeling betrayed by Falcone’s revelation, Bruce visits Alfred in the hospital to confront his Butler about never telling him his dear old dad was a criminal. Alfred, however, is having none of it, explaining Falcone is manipulating the situation. Falcone did indeed kill Elliot, and Thomas had asked him to silence (not kill) the journalist, not because he wanted to protect his political career but because he didn’t want Martha’s struggles exposed to the world.
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When Falcone killed Elliot, Thomas was apparently distraught and swore to go to the police and reveal what he and Falcone had done. Before the elder Wayne could go to the cops, he was gunned down. While Alfred can’t prove it, he believes it was Falcone who killed Bruce’s parents, not Maroni.
His faith in his mission restored, Bruce takes to the streets once again as Batman spots the Bat-Signal in the sky. When he arrives, he finds a confused Gordon waiting for him, and it’s revealed Catwoman lit the beacon. Selina has tracked down the man who murdered her friend Annika earlier in the film, and it’s a Gotham City cop who moonlights as a security guard at the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge.
Selina shares with Gordon and Bats a voice memo Annika recorded on her phone that reveals it was Falcone who had her killed. It seems that through the relationship with the mayor (The Riddler’s first victim), Annika learned the dark conspiracy The Riddler has been trying to help Batman uncover.
It seems that after the death of the Waynes, their charitable foundation ‘Renewal’ – which was worth billions – was left unguarded. Maroni, the Gotham former mob boss and the city’s elites used the fund for their own ends, neglecting the poor while feathering their own nests. Over time the mayor and his own crew grew greedy and decided to get rid of Maroni.
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Using Falcone as an anonymous criminal informant, they exposed Maroni’s drug trade and had him put away. That didn’t end the narcotic business in Gotham, though. Falcone took it over and eventually became a major player, essentially ruling as the city’s real mayor with Renewal as his personal piggy bank.
Deciding to take revenge on Falcone, Catwoman distracts Batman by kicking the corrupt officer she apprehended off the building. Selina then makes her way to Falcone’s office, where she reveals to the crime boss she’s his daughter (a lot happens in this film) and takes a shot at him. Luckily for Falcone, Batman doesn’t believe in the death penalty, not even for scumbags, and talks Catwoman out of killing the mob boss.
As the police arrive to arrest Falcone, he laughs in the face of Batman, telling him he owns the police. His smug smile’s wiped off his face, however, when Gordon reveals a whole battalion of police outside who are more than happy to take him in. As The Penguin belittles his old boss as a rat, though, Batman realises his mistake.
The Riddler’s last puzzle had asked Batman to bring the rat into the light, and as Falcone steps under a streetlamp, he’s gunned down. The police and Batman quickly make their way to the apartment the shot was fired from and discover The Riddler’s lair. Inside they find various traps and puzzles but no Riddler.
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It seems though the villain only popped out for coffee, and he’s quickly apprehended in a nearby cafe. The killer’s revealed to be the unassuming forensic accountant Edward Nashton who learned of the criminal conspiracy while investigating Renewal for the city. As Batman and the GCPD go through Nashton’s journals and apartment, Bruce comes to suspect The Riddler’s campaign isn’t over yet.
Gordon then informs Bruce that The Riddler wants to speak to him, so we’re off to Arkham. During a tense interview, The Riddler explains his motive to Bruce. He grew up in one of Gotham’s orphanages and was supposed to benefit from the Renewal project. However, after the Waynes died, the money never came, and with the city distracted by one orphan, in particular, Bruce Wayne, the fund was picked clean.
When Batman rose up to tackle the city’s criminals, Nashton was inspired to do the same, adopting the identity of The Riddler and striking out at those who he believed wronged the city. As The Riddler teases Batman, by implying he knows his secret identity, the villain’s shocked to discover the vigilante hasn’t worked out the final part of his plan and starts screaming.
Infuriated, Bruce heads back to Nashton’s apartment, where a chance encounter with a cop – who’s surprisingly knowledgeable about carpet fitting – helps him break the case. Realising The Riddler hid clues under his carpet, the Batman peels back the rug and reveals that the villain has hidden bombs all across the city, specifically along Gotham’s sea wall.
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Accessing The Riddler’s computer Bruce finds that before he was captured, The Riddler shared a live stream with a group of online followers and that they plan on attacking the mayor-elect Bella Real as she celebrates her election win. Before he can react to this revelation, the sounds of explosions sound out across the city, and the sea floods Gotham.
As the waters rise and the people of Gotham start to panic, the police do what they can to get people to safety. With Selina unable to escape the city after the Riddler’s bombing, she rather serendipitously finds herself at the convention centre where Bella was celebrating her election win, which is now being used as a shelter from the floodwaters.
Catwoman notices the Riddler’s followers up in the rafters above everyone. As the Dark Knight arrives, the costumed duo battles his puzzle-obsessed villain’s brainwashed cult, but the last of The Riddler’s followers get the upper hand on Batman, nearly killing him. Catwoman manages to distract the villain but soon finds herself outmatched.
Wounded and weakened, Batman injects himself with a mysterious green liquid and regains his strength. The vigilante then launches a furious attack on the villain, only stopping when Gordon and the GCPD arrive. When Bruce removes this new Riddler’s mask and asks him who he is, he simply replies with Batman’s catchphrase, “I am vengeance”.
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With the threat of the Riddlers over, all that’s left for Batman to do is to lead those trapped in the rising floodwaters out of the stadium and onto the roof.
In the film’s closing moments, Batman realises he was wrong to try and become vengeance and that he must become something more, something hopeful. He then says his goodbyes to Catwoman, who’s decided to leave Gotham for Bludhaven (That sounds familiar), and the film is over.
Well, not quite before the credits, we take a quick trip to Arkham where The Riddler is crying about Batman saving the day. As he weeps, an unnamed prisoner offers some words of consolation though telling him “everyone loves an encore” and letting out a horrific laugh.
The Batman post-credit scene explained
Not really. At the press screening, we attended the film ended with a riddle that directs people to The Riddler’s website, a fun Easter egg for committed fans but nothing essential.
Who was the unknown prisoner in The Batman?
We know what you’re thinking, was that The Joker? The short answer is yes. The long answer is ‘maybe’. As we detailed in our piece about potential Batman sequel villains, the identity of the Arkham inmate who consoles The Riddler at the end of the film isn’t revealed to the audience.
With his manic laugh and off-putting grin, he certainly resembles The Joker, but the Clown Prince of Crime is far from the only cackling loon in Gotham. In the balance of probability, it probably is The Joker, but until we learn more about The Batman 2, it’s fun to speculate.
The Batman is in theatres now.